Western Retrospective by Mary Soon Lee

Western Retrospective

The cowboys and cowgirls gone,
the settlers and traders gone,
the buffalo gone, the wolves gone,
the wagons, horses, railroads,
the bellowing call of trains,
the Apache, the Navajo, the Pueblo,
the Shoshone, Yavapai, Chemehuevi,
but light-years away they stand:
forty of O’Keeffe’s paintings—
a horse’s skull on blue folds,
bleached bone stark, static;
the pleated hills of a mesa
rising soft in shades of rust;
luminous petals spread wide
against New Mexican backdrops–
forty paintings bartered
for the terraforming of Earth,
those brilliant fluid lines
refracted by alien eyes.

Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but now lives in Pittsburgh. She writes both fiction and poetry, and has won the Rhysling Award and the Elgin Award. Her two latest books are from opposite ends of the poetry spectrum: Elemental Haiku, containing haiku for each element of the periodic table (Ten Speed Press, 2019) and The Sign of the Dragon, an epic fantasy with Chinese elements (JABberwocky Literary Agency, 2020).

Image credit: The 1930 art by Georgia O’Keeffe, ‘The Horse’s Skull on Blue,’ was photographed on the computer screen and further processed with a Prismart filter in the Toolwiz Photos app (by the editor) to create an imagined appealing image through the alien’s eyes.